Free play versus homework

Free play versus homework is a battle that goes on each week. Should young children be given homework every week? If all the evidence points to children at a young age learning best through play, surely they should be given the opportunity to play, rather than do more work at home each weekend.

Boy doing his homework

From the age of 4 my children started receiving homework and now my twins are 6, they have homework every week without fail. It is a constant pressure felt by both the children and parents. There is always the tension there, knowing it needs to be done. Is it right to put a pressure on such young children?

When given the opportunity to play, run free, explore and experience life without pressures, they learn naturally. A fantastic example of this was last weekend. My twin girls aged 6 were given homework to write a thank you letter to some chicks staying at the school. It was a battle, nagging them to sit down and do it. They questioned it, they messed about, then after about half an hour or so, it was finally completed with our support.

What did they learn from that homework? They learnt about saying thank you. They had a brief practice of writing skills (which they do in school) and they learn about the pressure of a deadline.

After the homework was completed we put on our boots and headed into the woods for a walk and explore, with no agenda, no predetermined activity. The children immediately headed for a tree to climb. At first they were haphazard, both hindering each other, getting in the way, hence unable to climb. I suggested to them, they could work together, support each other, be a team and they might manage it.

Tree climbing

They took that advice. They communicated well, helped each other, suggested foot holes and strong branches to hold. They took turns and both successfully achieved their goal. They were so pleased with their teamwork.

Following this, they all ran from tree to tree, climbing, helping each other. They had so much fun. Unfortunately, on separate occasions both BB and pinky fell out of a tree. Luckily I managed to catch BB, but Pinky went down with a thump. After a bit of TLC they were both fine.

This was a very valuable learning experience about safety, care and how strong thin branches are.

They found a den and tried to add to it, using a spot of engineering skills.

We observed a bee, the trees and how weaker plants use strong trees to support them. Boo told us that trees help us breathe, so I expanded on that discussion and explained a little more. Everyone was interested and had something to say.

Our walk lasted about one hour. In that hour of fun, the children learnt:

  • Teamwork
  • Balance
  • Gross motor skills
  • About trees
  • Nature
  • Climbing
  • Safety
  • Communication
  • Science
  • Problem solving

In addition to this, they had exercise, fresh air and quality family time. If we had not had to spend time on the homework, we would have been out for much longer. What did they learn most from, the homework or the free play?

Free play versus homework is something I struggle with. I believe children need plenty of time for free play and to experience and explore things for themselves. They often even do writing off their own back (when they’ve not been told to) and enjoy it, but as soon as they are told they have to do homework, it becomes a chore for the whole family…it can really ruin the weekends and decrease their natural desire to learn.

What do you think, is it good to give homework to such young children?

5 thoughts on “Free play versus homework”

  1. This is good debate. I imagine play learning over homework. I think being asked to write a thank you note to some chicks is as you say not that fun for them. if it’s practicing writing then you are more likely to get the kids writing with sticks in the mud or writing about the adventure you’ve just been on. No to homework in the early years!

  2. I agree with you. While my Littles don’t get homework, there is practice of math, reading and writing everyday. There is also ample time to climb trees and play pretend. Balance is key.

  3. I have to say I agree with you at such a young age, my eldest very rarely had homework from primary school whereas my triplets had it almost every week too. It’s also clear that your three definitely learnt more during their time exploring the woods with you than their half an hour writing their notes. It’s great that you have managed to find balance between the two learning experiences, overall it’s good to balance them both.

  4. I completely agree. It is crazy the amount of homework my 6 year old gets every week! Writing twice a week, grammar once a week and then maths and spellings. It puts so much pressure on us all where I would rather be us out having fun. Like you point out in this article play outside is just as if not more important. It looks like you had a great time 🙂

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